November 21, 2010

I keep reading – or trying to read – articles about the Irish crisis in my efforts to understand just what on earth is going on over there. After all, half my family come from there, some of them still live there, it’s our nearest neighbour and it seems to me to be important but I am continually defeated, despite having a degree in politics and economics and everything. I fail to see how the politicians can be insisting one moment that everything’s fine, nothing to see here, move along, just a small temporary cashflow problem, everything’s under control, and the next minute they’re calling in the IMF, the financial stormtroopers of the modern age, seemingly at the whim of some bond traders somewhere. Then there’s the fact that Ireland seem to have done everything that the powers that be insisted Greece should do and didn’t yet with exactly the same results as Greece had – massive deficit, bond holders revolting, entire country left sitting dejectedly with its cap out and a handwritten sign saying ‘hungry and homeless’. And I scratch my head as to why, given all this, our own government seems to think it’s a good idea to also massively cut spending, depress the economy, cut the tax base and generally trash the entire public sector given what a glittering success that has been in Ireland. And so I keep determinedly settling down with the newspaper and one of those interminable articles about the Celtic Tiger thinking, well this time, surely, it will all make sense, if only I could pay attention.

And then I remember that the Irish Taoiseach’s nickname is Biffo, standing for ‘Big Ignorant Fecker from Offaly’ and I just can’t get past that fact at all. I’m sure I never used to be that childish back in my youth. Anyone else getting less serious as they allegedly grow up? Or is it just me?



November 19, 2010

It’s cold out and the neighbour’s cat clearly wants in. Fair enough – I’d want in too, if I’d been shut out for the day in November – but I wish it wouldn’t let us know this by sitting on the windowsills and staring at us through the windows. Doing the washing up under the supervision of a cat is bad enough but getting undressed and having a shower is something else again. Semi-opaque glass or no semi-opaque glass, there’s something very judgemental about a cat’s gaze…

Counting One’s Cabbages

November 18, 2010

After the relentless grimness of yesterday, today’s been one of those brisk, grey windy days when you play the odds: balancing the drying effect of the wind against the risk of rain. In between heats of the hundred-yard laundry rescue dash, I ventured up to harvest our next installment of cabbage. There was a fine-looking one at the edge of the bed but when I went to pick it I found it was a hollow sham: the slugs had neatly nibbled through the base of the heart and had eaten out all the insides leaving only the outer leaves.

I haven’t really done too well with cabbages this year; after the fun and games with the caterpillars last year I did net my brassicas, but while the broccoli are looking reasonably perky, the cabbages are less convincing. Partly because, while the landlord built an elaborate and impregnable netting complex nicknamed Fort Knox, my netting was more along the lines of ‘drape it over some sticks and hope for the best’ and more than once I’d come up and find a butterfly or two inside, trying to get out. What the netting did do was to serve to discourage regular picking of the caterpillars which made it in and also seemed to have made a delightful microclimate for slugs to flourish in. So the end result is that my cabbages, while of course delicious*, are a little lacy on the outside and rather small once you’ve worked your way down to the non-chewed layer. Always assuming that there is one.

I got my revenge this time by feeding the remains, along with its inhabitant slugs, to the chickens, and I picked another one which was fine, if a little small, but I think cabbages are something I’m going to have to work at next year. I have found that the vegetables I struggled with last year have done much better this year, which is probably down to the weather, but I’m hoping that a small amount of it might be my improved gardening skills. Well, let me dream. At least the cabbages are doing better than the leeks, which is a story for another day.

*adjusted for being cabbage


November 17, 2010

Ah. I was just sitting here, listening to the wind howling down the chimney and the rain splattering against the window and wondering just how unpleasant riding down to choir was going to be this evening: quite unpleasant, very unpleasant, or absolutely f***ing miserable. And then, bring bring – our neighbour on the phone ringing to offer me a lift down. I yield to no-one in my fondness for bikes and my commitment to not using the car for unnecessary journeys, such as the mile and a half down into the village, but I am still, I have to admit, quite relieved.

The Downsides of Growing your Own…

November 16, 2010

Meal planning in the townmouse household:

Other half: Ok so that’s Sausage and cabbage on Wednesday, Caldo Verde with cabbage on Thursday and stir fry on Friday. Should we use some of the frozen beans for that?

Me: Or we could have cabbage in the stir fry and save the beans for Saturday

Other half: *senses a cabbage-related theme to the week*

Me: Well we don’t have to have cabbage with everything. we could have parsnips with everything instead.

Delicious new ways with cabbage (and monster parsnips) would be appreciated in the comments…

Da Bomb

November 15, 2010

Heading up to the walled garden yesterday to resume my digging, I noticed something strange about the landlord’s greenhouse.

It wasn’t just condensation; it looked as though they’d taken captive a tiny cloud, possibly a hostage to ensure good behaviour from the weather gods.

It turned out to be a sulphur bomb (or sulphur candle, before the anti-terror people descend) to rid the nectarine tree inside it of red spider mites

I think I prefer my explanation though.

Virtue (sort of) Rewarded

November 13, 2010

Are you bored of puncture stories yet? I know I am. But bear with me, for hopefully we’re almost done.

Having been persuaded yesterday of the virtues of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, I had seriously considered ordering a replacement one online, but in the end I decided that a slight markup on bike parts (about a fiver, all told) is a small price to pay to ensure that there’s a decent bike shop around when you need one. And besides, it was a glorious day for a jaunt into town on the bike. We’re fortunate that Bigtown is actually quite well served by bike shops. There’s a H**fords, a Raleigh shop, a mainly mountain-bike emporium and the one I go to, a wonderful old tucked-away shop named after (or perhaps founded by) Kirkpatrick Macmillan, inventor of the bicycle and the world’s first scofflaw pavement cyclist. This shop used to have a tiny handwritten sign in the window announcing it was for sale and I always used to worry that one day I would find it closed down for good (it was temporarily shut for much of the week as it was) before I’d had a chance to really get much benefit from it. But it’s been taken over by the same lad who’s been selling secondhand bikes from his parents’ farm and he seems to be making a go of it. And besides, not only did he have a tyre in stock and was able to work out the size needed (not a given, when you’re me), but he fitted it for me too, along with a brand new inner tube. And threw in some spare patches for my puncture repair kit so I wouldn’t have to buy a whole new one.

I was hoping that a new tyre, plus spare inner tube, plus extra patches, would be sufficient to appease the bike gods, but no. No sooner had I paid and thanked him, and wheeled my bike out of the shop, than I got that sinking feeling and looked down at my front tyre, the one I hadn’t had replaced…


…and I realised I should have been more cautious around that hedge-cutting tractor on the way in. Still, there are worse places to get a puncture, and I even got it repaired for free. And surely, surely, surely five punctures is enough for the season now? Or do I have to make some sort of sacrifice to the bicycle gods to ensure a trouble-free ride?